There is a funny tale told about a farmer whose mule fell into a well. After many unsuccessful attempts to haul the mule out of the hole, the farmer decided that the situation was hopeless. With great sadness he instructed his boys to fill truck loads of soil and bury the old mule right in the well. The boys began to shovel the soil into the well and bury the old mule, but the mule didn't take kindly to this action! The first shovelful hit him square on the head, got him in the eyes and made him sneeze. Every shovelful after that hit him somewhere, making the mule more and more angry. The mule thought to himself "I am not going to give in to this situation." So in stead of giving in, the mule began to stomp around in the bottom of the well, pressing the soil down with his hooves. Several truck loads of soil later, the mule could still be seen stomping around packing the dirt firmly underneath his feet. That old mule persevered for hours in his stomping and little by little lifted himself out of the well. In the afternoon the mule eventually stepped out of the well to freedom and snorted angrily at the whole business!
Perseverance! There are numerous funny stories like this aimed at encouraging people to persevere through the difficulties of life rather than give up and give in. The common thread behind all these fables is to remind us that there are two ways of dealing with life's problems, one is keep on going like the mule and rise above them, and the other of course is to lie down beneath them.
Likewise, Scripture has much to say on this subject, teaching that to remain faithful, Christian‘s must learn to persevere and to stand firm no matter what problems or temptations come their way. Numerous verses exhort those who follow the Lord to be dedicated, determined and persistent and never give in. In Hebrews Ch10v23 it states "Holdfast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He Who promised you is Faithful," 2nd Timothy Ch2v3, "You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ," Galatians Ch6v9 "Do not grow weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart," Matthew Ch24v12 "Because wickedness will increase on the earth the love of many will grow cold, but he who endures to the end shall be saved," and Romans Ch12v21 "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
It is the duty of every Christian to persevere in their faith and to overcome the difficulties of this life rather than be overcome by them. We should be like the mule; refusing to give in when life gets tough! Every time a follower of Christ is confronted with a new difficulty such as bereavement, ill health, temptation or whatever, how they respond will make them "either a better or a bitter Christian." If they persevere in their walk with the Lord, then He will bring good from that evil (see Romans Ch8v28) and they will become a better and stronger Christian. If however, they abandon their faith through lack of perseverance then they are like seed sown on the stony soil in the Parable of the Sower. (See Matthew Ch13vs20-21). Jesus warned that this kind of person has no deep roots to their faith so "endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the Word they stumble" failing to persevere with the Lord.
Luke Ch18v1 states that Jesus told people "they should keep on praying rather than lose heart." He then followed up this teaching with the Parable of the Persistent Widow. Scripture reassures us that "God is Faithful Who will not allow (us) to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear." (1st Corinthians Ch10v13). Provided we keep on praying and persevering in the midst of trouble, rather than losing heart, God for His part will help and strengthen us, so that no temptation or trouble can break us. Christian's do not face problems alone; they have a Supernatural Helper! There are numerous reassuring verses such as; Psalm 55v22 "Cast your burden on the Lord and He will sustain you because He will never permit the righteous to be moved." Philippians Ch4v13"I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me." And Hebrews Ch13v5-6 "For He Himself has said ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you' so we may boldly say ‘The Lord is my Helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" These are beautiful promises and are the Source of the Christian's power to persevere. Their strength to persist comes from God Himself so they remain unbroken in spirit no matter what.
In Matthew Ch6v34 Jesus urged people to persevere by taking one day at a time. He said, "Do not worry about tomorrow because sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Taking one problem at a time, a day at a time, or in extreme cases an hour at a time is how God wants Christians to deal with troubles. Handling troubles in this manner makes all the difference as the following nursery story illustrates.
Once upon a time the clockmaker made a little clock. As the clock started ticking it looked up and noticed a grandfather clock. "How old are you?" asked the little clock. The grandfather clock explained that he was one hundred years old! At first the little clock was really impressed but as he thought about it he became anxious. He said to the grandfather clock, "There are two ticks in every second, 60 seconds in one minute, 60 minutes in an hour and you have been ticking away for one hundred years! I just can't bear the thought of all that work. It's too great a burden for me to handle." The grandfather clock then asked the little clock "Tell me, little clock, how many ticks are you asked to take at a time?" The little clock thought for a moment and then replied "Now that you point it out, I am only ever asked to take one tick at a time." "Precisely so" said the grandfather clock. "Just take one tick at a time and you will never find it too much." The spiritual lesson is clear; in order to help us persevere we should take one day at a time or one trouble at a time.
When a person faithfully perseveres in the struggle against evil it can have truly amazing consequences- sometimes even years later. During the Second World War there was an American fighter pilot called Butch O'Hare. This young man was assigned to an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. One day while on a mission, he looked at his fuel gauge and realised that someone had forgotten to top up his fuel tank. Unable to complete his mission, he turned round and headed back for the aircraft carrier. As he headed back he saw a squadron of Japanese planes heading straight for the American Fleet. All the rest of the American fighters were out on patrol leaving the Fleet virtually defenceless.
O'Hare was utterly alone. In a desperate attempt to divert them away from the Fleet, he drove straight into
the formation of Japanese planes. After a frightening air battle, incredibly the Japanese planes did indeed break off their assault and O'Hare's battered fighter limped back to the carrier. To mark this amazing act of bravery and the numerous lives he saved, O'Hare International Airport in Chicago was named after him. The courage this young man displayed on that day didn't simply come out of "nowhere". His brave and selfless character had been inspired by the example of his father's personal struggle against evil. It is a remarkable story.
His father used to be known as Easy Eddie and was Al Capone's corrupt lawyer. In those day's Al Capone's mob virtually owned the city of Chicago. It was a dark and turbulent time in the history of the city and Easy Eddie's task was to keep the mobster out of jail. In return for this Easy Eddie earned big money and lived like a king. He was provided with an estate so large if filled an entire city block. Eddie saw that his son had the best of everything, clothes, a good education and so on, but as his son grew Eddie became more and more uneasy in his conscience about his links with the mob. Through his conscience, God repeatedly challenged him to reflect on the bad influence his corrupt lifestyle was going to have on Butch. Did he want Butch to grow up like that?
As time passed his conscience bothered him more and more until eventually after a great inner struggle Eddie decided he must break away from Al Capone and change his life. This was no light decision. Eddie knew it would be a long struggle to become free and he knew that he might pay with his life. He felt however, he must have the courage of his convictions. In order to put right the wrongs he had done, Eddie went to the authorities and told them about the mob's activities. Sometime later he then testified in court against Al Capone. Eddie's courage and perseverance in resisting evil ended Capone's reign of terror over the city. Within a year Eddie was shot dead in a lonely Chicago street but the example he set so inspired his son that years later he was willing to take on a squadron of Japanese planes single-handedly in order to save thousands of lives.
In Ephesians Ch6v10-18, St Paul urged "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might…because we do not wrestle against mere flesh and blood…Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand in the evil day and having done all to remain standing…" We must faithfully persevere in our walk with the Lord no matter what troubles or temptations attempt to hinder us. With God's help and strength we can be victorious over evil and our perseverance will be most richly rewarded in eternity. (See Matthew Ch5vs11-12, Luke Ch21 vs18-19 and Ecclesiastes Ch 8v12).